We don’t like to talk about “strategy” and “viral” because the two are not connected.
I’m (secretly) hoping that you know this. I’m praying. I’m praying that you’re not sitting around with your team trying to figure out how to make something go viral. Or (worse), I REALLY hope you’re not asking your agency to make you something that goes viral (“oh, something viral! Sure, let me rummage around here in my bottom drawer to find one of those viral marketing thingamajigs… I know I had one of them here somewhere…”). Viral is the result of the work…. And it’s (mostly) a lucky result (meaning: it happened – mostly – without the work of the content creator). Some argue that they can make something viral. That there is a process. That there is a formula. I don’t believe them. A formula is something that works all of the time (no matter who does it). Show me someone with a formula for making stuff go viral, and I’ll show you someone who can never do it constantly and consistently. Still, stuff goes viral every day – all of the time. It could be something that I publish. It could be something that you publish. I hope everything that you create goes viral. You deserve it. You are awesome, and I mean that.
But, what if something does go viral?
In the past little while, I’ve had two friends who’ve had pieces of content go viral. Like big. Like suddenly getting calls from every media outlet on the planet (from late night tv to the news networks) and suddenly being inundated with thousands (to millions) of likes, clicks, follows, comments and everything in between. A true global moment, when their idea really popped. Such a happy moment… such a moment of power. But now, all eyes are on that individual, who they are and their content. So, the logical question becomes this: what should you do to make the most of that moment and – more importantly – to use it to build on it going forward?
Next steps in a post viral world.
Sure, you will want to gather the clips, archive them, update your website (and bio) with all of the great accolades, and ensure that anybody looking for that cultural breakthrough can find you (and tie your name to it, if possible). Of course, you will want to reach out to all of the media outlets (the producers and researchers) to thank them for the coverage, and to let them know that you can always be available on whatever your area of expertise is. From a technology standpoint, you want to ensure that you have your analytics running, the ability to capture someone’s email (if you have something to offer from that perspective that will be of value), and have as much social media listening and activation as you possibly can. It’s a fairly standard process, but you would be surprised how many brands are lacking the basics and (often) get caught off-guard when something that they publish actually does strike a nerve.
The most important thing that must be done when lightning strikes.
All of the stuff above works, but to push it forward, to keep people coming back, and to keep you as top of mind as either a subject matter expert or a brand to connect with, here’s what I would recommend: Content Bookends. Have a good slew of quality content ready to go. If you can prime your social media and web feeds to have a handful of these pieces published before the big viral moment all the better (you can do this with blog publishing, but not on many of the social media platforms), and then have more pieces of quality content published after you’ve had magic. This will engage and encourage those who are new to your content (both regular folks and media personnel) that you are not a one hit wonder, and that you have (constantly and consistently) been thinking smart and doing smart. In a sense, you are putting your viral moment in between other great pieces of content. The more original that content is, the better (but even demonstrating through curation is a quality way to make this happen). I would personally shy away (while content bookending) from too much self-promotion (stuff like: buy my book, self-quotes, etc…). Your brand is now global and there is a different perception of who you are and what you stand for. Those who get called frequently to the big media platforms are very careful (and subtle) in how they self-promote. I like to think WWSGD? (What Would Seth Godin Do?). He’s my go-to for always adding value (while keeping the self-promotion to a dull – and appreciative – roar). If you can capture email, please make sure that what you send out is not just an offer for your products/services. Send something of value (a true gift). You want to be in a position, where everything before and after this viral moment continues to validate why it happened, and it perpetuates the reality that everybody who likes the viral thing will truly like everything else that you are doing. Create real content bookends.
Less selfies and more quality content.
If you’re an individual and not a company, I would argue to make everything less personal (if most of your content is family pictures, cat memes or whatever) and much more personable business “you.” It’s also fair game to look back into your archives. Repurposing (and updating) older content (that you know is quality and current) is smart too. Remember, these are new eyeballs, and not your biggest fans (yet). While you need to watch the level of shilling that you’re doing (because there is a healthy balance – especially if you have a book on the market or something major happening with a product or service), obviously bring out that important book (or video, or audio, or product or service) content in social media, to keep the connection tight between the viral moment and your regular content flow. This will keep everything in synch.
Having a viral moment is a gift. Don’t squander it. Capitalize on it by being ready and being able to bookend it with value for the win.